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I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (2018)

Long time viewers of anime are used to strange titles that often have little or nothing to do with the series or film in question. Even by those standards, I Want To Eat Your Pancreas stands out as an attention-grabbing title. But despite this title, this film has nothing to do with zombies, or cannibalism. Instead, its a heartfelt coming-of-age teen drama and (sort of) romance.

The film is adapted from a novel by Yoru Sumino published in 2014. It was written and directed by Shin'ichiro Ushijima and animated by Studio VOLN. The film was originally released in Japan in 2018 and subsequently screened at several animation festivals worldwide. It won the Audience Award at the Scotland Loves Anime festival in 2018.

Sakura Yamauchi is going to die. This isn't really a spoiler as the film opens with her funeral and then flashes back to tell her story. The high schooler was diagnosed with pancreatic disease and told that she did not have long to live.

Not that you'd know it from the outside. With her bubbly demeanour, outgoing personality and happy-go-lucky attitude, she's the very picture of the classic manic pixie anime dreamgirl. She's kept her diagnosis secret from her friends and classmates because she doesn't want them to worry or treat her differently. That's until the film's male lead (who is unnamed throughout the majority of the film, and credited as 'Me') stumbles across her secret.

He's a socially awkward loner who prefers the company of a book to other people. His (non) reaction to learning her news leads Sakura to attach herself to him. As only he knows her secret, she decides that he's the only one she can truly be honest with- and knows he'll be honest with her. Despite his initial reluctance, a strange freindship begins to bloom, and soon they are going out for meals, making impromptu trips and spending all their time together. Much to the annoyance of Sakura's bemused friends and classmates.

If this sounds like as et-up for overly melodramatic misery-porn -it's not. Far from it, in fact. This is largely due to the character of Sakura. Her cheerful outlook and the matter-of-fact way she takes her upcoming fate in her stride means that the film isn't anywhere near as gloomy as it could be.

The film is often sold as romance, but that's not really accurate. It occasionally flirts with the idea of going there, but their relationship remains strictly platonic. It is a love story between the two- but it's one of friendship. As Me doesn't have any friends, it's almost as if he is being introduced to the whole concept.

Their relationship is pretty unusual, with them brought together by extraordinary circumstances. Their conversations are often not the kind of things your average teens talk about. And it's from one of these strange conversations that the film's title comes from.

It's gorgeous to look at, with appealingly cute, if conventional, character designs and fluid animation. But special mention must be given to the backgrounds and production design. Cherry-blossoms are a recurring motif (befitting of Sakura's name) and the lush pinks of the leaves, combined with the blues of the sky make for some arresting visuals. It manages to capture the beauty in the every-day, which nicely represents the film's themes. It may have a dying girl at its heart, but the film is about living.

Its aim is to be ultimately uplifting and life-affirming and for the most part, it's pretty successful. The wheels come off in the final act, with an ill-advised last-minute rug-pull leaving a bitter taste. It's inserted for shock-value but feels unearned and unnecessary, and hurts its characters

The film also falls victim to a common anime flaw. The central character is so lacking in personality that it's hard to see why a girl like Sakura would be drawn to him. It might be deliberate in novels to allow the audience a "self-insert" character, but it's dull as a viewer.  What's worse, there's a scene where he practically assaults her, and it makes it very hard to sympathise with him after that.

Ultimately though, the film largely succeeds in spite of its flaws- and manages to pull things back together to pull off a pretty moving ending. I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is no classic- but it's well worth watching.


IN A NUTSHELL:   A sumptuously animated and bittersweet tale that celebrates the beauty in everyday life.



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*Review disc supplied by MANGA UK*